Posted by: frroberts | September 8, 2015

Q and A: Pope Francis streamlines annulment process

What is an annulment?  The term “annulment” is a popular abbreviation for a “declaration of nullity” from a Church tribunal.  Nothing other than the death of one of the spouses can end a marriage between two baptized Christians who have been properly married (according to canonical form).  Jesus Himself taught as much when He said, “Let no one separate what God has joined.”  A declaration of nullity asserts that after diligent investigation, a Church court has arrived at the conclusion that a necessary element was lacking in the internal consent to the wedding vows by one or both of the spouses on the wedding day.  While one or both of the parties might have been in good faith when they pronounced their vows, something necessary to create a life-long bond was lacking.

What do you mean by “canonical form?”  In order to continue to participate in the sacraments, Catholics must be married in a Catholic Church or receive permission from the bishop to married elsewhere.  If you are Catholic and were not married in the Catholic Church, this is generally a very easy problem to fix with the help of your parish priest, provided that neither party was married previously.

What did Pope Francis do earlier this week with regard to declarations of nullity?  The Holy Father changed Church law in order to make the process for obtaining a declaration of nullity shorter and less burdensome.  It remains to be seen how exactly some of the details will work out concretely, but what is quite likely is that more people whose marriages have failed will be able to receive a declaration of nullity if they choose to pursue one.

Does this mean that divorced and remarried Catholics can start receiving Holy Communion even if they have not submitted their marriage case to the Church?  No. Any Catholics in this situation should make an appointment with his or her parish priest in order to see what can be done.


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